Nellie’s Cafe–Las Cruces, NM

Nellie’s Cafe
1226 W. Hadley Ave.
Las Cruces, NM
(575) 524-9982


As far as I can remember Nellie’s has the distinction of being the first New Mexican restaurant I tried in Las Cruces (other than La Posta in Mesilla). Nellie’s was the favorite of my relatives and the one we headed to first when we were in the City of the Crosses. From this time in the mid 1970’s until after 2000 I never noticed a change in the quality of Nellie’s, and it has always been as good as I remember from the first time I ate here.

The only thing that has changed, though, has been the hours (and of course the prices have gone up over the years). They no longer have dinner hours, and now close at 3:00 p.m.  While not a change from the old days, they are also closed from Christmas until about the third week in January, and again for a vacation in the summer. I either read or was told that this is the way they have been able to keep this family owned business alive for so long without having to close.

Nellie’s has always been my idea of what southern New Mexican style food should be. The red chile has always been my favorite here, but others have told me the green chile is best. This is the restaurant where I developed a great love for stuffed sopapillas, and this is my favorite dish here. Really, though, everything is good (a friend of mine tells me they have the best huevos rancheros ever).

I believe there are several candidates in New Mexico for the best red chile, and Nellie’s is certainly one of them. What I especially like about Nellie’s, though, is that the heat level is not extremely high but the flavor of the chile is as good as the hotter varieties.

Stuffed Sopapilla (a.k.a. Sopapilla Compuesta)

Sopapilla compuesta

Sopapilla compuesta with red and green sauce

The Stuffed Sopapilla is my favorite dish, and I am very glad I can go back and get the same dish I enjoyed when I was just learning how good New Mexican food could be. At Nellie’s it is not actually stuffed, but the beans, meat, lettuce, cheese, and tomato are put on top of the sopapilla, along with your preference of chile (red or green). Over the years I have enjoyed the meatless version as much as the one withe meat. Either way, I think it is best with the red sauce.

The dish pictured is the regular size, but they also have a small order. Both are relatively inexpensive.

Red Enchiladas
Red Enchiladas are also excellent, and I always like to order them stacked. Because they do not come with blue corn tortillas they do not rise to the level that would put the ones in northern New Mexico. The chile, though, is probably as good as you will find anywhere (my preference is the red, but both are good).


Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

Another item for which Nellie’s is famous is the Salsa. It is spicy, flavorful, and fresh. I have bought some to take home several times, and this is something I would suggest if you have the opportunity.

Closing Comments
Anyone who remembers restaurants from the 1970’s will probably know that many places placed an emphasis on utility rather than decor (unless it was a fine dining restaurant). Nellie’s, as a local hangout, provided all the tables and booths that could fit into a small space, and the last time I saw it nothing has changed. Many of the newer restaurants might be considered nicer, but I am glad Nellie’s still allows me to relive the memories of what have really been my favorite New Mexican food experiences in Las Cruces.


Cuisine: Mexican New Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Open 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (closed Sun. & Mon.)
Smoking: No smoking
Special Features: Serves breakfast

Most Recent Visit: Mar. 22, 2018
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Sopapilla Compuesta, Red Enchiladas, Salsa

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchiladas
star 5 Green Enchiladas
star 5 Sopapilla Compuesta
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa

2 thoughts on “Nellie’s Cafe–Las Cruces, NM

  1. Living in Las Cruces for 11 years, I love Las Cruces’ local cuisine. It’s underappreciated by national foodies, but that leaves more room for cool people to feast, drink good cerveza and be merry.

    Nellie’s is the biggest asspain of a local establishment. Understand that Mom & Pop establishments often prosper there just being open for breakfast and lunch. The menu often is simplified by that approach, the food quality higher.

    However, I have given up ever eating at Nellie’s again because they never operate in any consistent manner to the public. If they want to spend more time away from the business, they could do it because they’ve prospered. They are an institution of sorts in & around LC… but I say close for good or just keep some damn consistent hours. When I go home to visit friends and crave good New Mexican food, I don’t have much time. Rub a dubdub, grab me some grub.

    Meanwhile, other great local New Mexican joints in the City of the Crosses abide…. Miguel’s, Go Burger, El Sombrero, tiny El Patron Cafe, the funky Ranchway BBQ (that serves local cuisine as well) … as well as the excellent Andele in Mesilla – are all solid. Even the Santa Fe burrito stop in the Pic Quik convenience stores are a great breakfast grab. Miss them all badly here in Washington D.C. Pay $9 for a burrito? Get bent.

    • I have also been burned by Nellie’s schedule. They take vacations twice a year–at Christmas and also in the summer (either July or Aug. and I tried to go during this time). The schedule is consistent, though–it’s just hard to know if you are not there locally and plugged into the restaurant scene.

      I started going to Nellie’s in the 1970’s, and I am glad they have been able to keep this family business going for all that time without burning out. I am sure the twice yearly vacations are necessary to keep this going.

      I agree with you that there are lots of other good options in town, and that they are underappreciated.

      I added your suggestion for El Patron to my Las Cruces Restaurant Guide, and I will keep an eye on people’s comments to add or delete restaurant suggestions as things change.

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